By Charles Laiton
The Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU) says its surveillance programmes in the tourist resort town led to the arrest of nearly 400 poachers and recovery of 158 snares last year.
VFAPU operations co-ordinator Charles Brightman said the poachers targetted 19 different game species including elephants.
“It was shocking to experience our first case of cyanide poisoning, where poachers placed this poison in a mineral lick and sadly, five elephants lost their lives,” Brightman said.
“It’s a new method of poaching, the use of poisons rather than shooting, with the main object being to get tusks for black market sale.
“Arrests have been made and court cases are pending, following the ‘brazen’ incident in Zambezi National Park in July,” he said.
“The investigation was a joint effort by the Environmental Management Authority, Zimbabwe Republic Police, National Parks and Wildlife Management, VFAPU and the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust,” Brightman said.
Of the 398 people apprehended last year, 358 were wood poachers, 11 fish poachers, a thief, eight illegal miners, two bush meat dealers and five parks estate trespassers.
Brightman said bush meat poaching in Victoria Falls, was still a bit of a problem.
Interestingly, Brighton said a total of 158 snares were recovered last year, a dramatic drop from the more than 4 000 found in 1999, when VFAPU was formed.
Africa Albida Tourism, a Zimbabwe-owned hospitality group, which operates hotels and restaurants in Victoria Falls and Chobe, Botswana, co-founded and finances VFAPU programmes.